A horse was euthanized after suffering a devastating leg injury in the final race of the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday, the 37th horse death at Santa Anita Park in less than a year.
The attention of the horse racing world turned to the California race track on Saturday for the biggest event outside of the Triple Crown races, but the track was once again beset by tragedy. In the final race on Saturday, a 4-year-old thoroughbred named Mongolian Groom suffered what track officials called a “serious fracture” to his left hind leg, ABC 7 reported.
After the horse was euthanized, Breeders’ Cup officials released a statement mourning the horse’s death and saying that the safety of both jockeys and horses is the top priority for the famed competition. The statement went on to say that officials had worked on safety going into Saturday’s event and put measures in place meant to keep the horses safe.
“We have worked closely with Santa Anita leading up to the World Championships to promote enhanced equine safety,” the statement read. “Santa Anita has implemented numerous industry-leading reforms to enhance the existing health and safety measures with the intent of providing a safe racing environment.”
But there was already heightened scrutiny going into the Breeders’ Cup after a spate of horse deaths at the track. Since last December, a total of 37 horses have died at the track, most of them suffering devastating injuries in accidents both on the track and in training areas of the facility. The spate of deaths has attracted national attention and drawn protests from animal rights groups, with some calling on the track to be closed.
Santa Anita officials even closed the track for a long stretch this year to have the surface studied and new safety measures put in place in an effort to stop the deadly accidents. But the measures have not stopped or slowed the rate of horse deaths, and officials still appear perplexed as to what is causing the accidents.
There were protesters at the Breeders’ Cup this weekend calling for an end to racing there, but ABC 7 noted that a small group of counterprotesters also showed up, emphasizing the importance of the horse racing industry across the state of California.
“There’s 77,000 jobs up and down the state of California that are tied in to horse racing,”said horse trainer Doug O’Neill. “From the guy ripping the tickets, to the shoers putting on shoes, to the veterinarians. There’s so many people tied in to this great sport.”